Clubs within Cottage Club
The Bago Boys
The Original Bago Boys was a group of about a dozen Cottage members who rented a Winnebago motor home and departed UCC on a Thursday evening in early November 1975. The itinerary included a party Thursday night at a women’s college, followed by a Friday night party at a second women’s college, both in the Boston area (further details available only under high-security clearance).
The Cottage men played a touch football game against the Fly Club of Harvard at one of the colleges on Friday, dressed in official Princeton football jerseys, and took a team photo on the steps of the Harvard Lampoon building amidst a barrage of verbal abuse from the dorms. On Saturday, several of the Bago Boys played Rugby for the Princeton team against Harvard, parked the vehicle at the Harvard boathouse for the tailgate of the Tiger/Harvard football game, and unfurled to the stadium crowd a 20x30' Princeton crest banner that they had temporarily “borrowed” from one of the flag poles atop a University building.
Unfortunately, the game was televised and the banner drew unwanted attention. They then parked the Winnebago outside a roaring Pi Eta Club party in Cambridge Saturday night, drove out to Marblehead, MA for Sunday brunch (and team swim in the Atlantic Ocean) hosted by the parents of a Bago participant, and finally headed back to Cottage in time for dinner on Sunday evening.
The Original Bago Boys actually had a designated driver, sustained no material damages to the vehicle, and survived with minimal psychological impairments. The trip generated more laughs than they could ever recall in any one college weekend excursion and lots of goodwill for Cottage and Princeton. By the way, the University looked the other way on both the banner and the jerseys, which were returned promptly!!
The Fraser Society
In the autumn of 1980, a spontaneous card game erupted in the taproom of the University Cottage Club. Poker chips appeared, table stakes declared, and first bets placed. In the time it took to utter "Straight flush, Ace-high beats your Jack-boat," light was streaming through the downstairs windows, and the smell of bacon wafted from upstairs.
Bleary-eyed and taking comfort in having found yet another unconstructive way to blow off a night in Firestone, the gentlemen trudged up for a hearty breakfast and boisterous table talk of the new games they had learned. These included: Criss-Cross, Low Chicago, Pass-The-Trash, Follow-the-Queen, Ringo, 6-Card Low, Night Baseball (with a rain-out provision), and the infamous 2 Card Bloody Guts (introduced by an adventurous member who had learned the game in Iran during a junior year sabbatical before the abdication of the Shah. He had returned to Cottage, minus a pinkie, and was eager to teach us the finer points of bluffing. But that’s another story.)
The game took on a life of its own with a core group of nightly players, but all were welcomed provided they had a healthy sense of camaraderie and the remote possible ability to make good on their IOUs which began to grow in an exponential fashion. On this latter point, it should be noted that as the year progressed, IOUs began trading in a secondary market, with those issued by members heading to Wall Street valued at quite the premium to those owned by members planning for Graduate Studies in Art History. We all began to better understand the concepts of discount present value and credit risk.
One particular early winter night in the taproom, Motown tunes blaring from a jukebox which has long disappeared, someone noted "Hey, we’ve been doing this for something like three months now. At Cottage that qualifies for a club tradition with naming rights… what should we call ourselves?" At the time there was also a wooden cigar store Indian in the taproom, whom we had always referred to as "Chief George" as this surely must have represented an artifact belonging to George C. Fraser '93, whose name adorned the wall above the fireplace. "Well it’s pretty clear to me," said another, "That we are The Fraser Society, particularly since most of us have spent more time here this semester than in our own rooms on campus. Does anyone second this emotion?" A beery cry of "Second!" arose from the players, and the Fraser Society was born.
Poker was the game of choice, but when members tired of exchanging each others’ IOUs, other games were played as well. The first Fraser Society Hearts tournament was played during reading period in January 1981. The winner and runner-up, who feared losing their names to obscurity, found an old sporting trophy in the case in the Tiger Room on the main floor and had their names engraved on it in an inconspicuous manner. One final note: A chance encounter on a Manhattan street corner between two founders of the Society in 1992 led to the resurrection of a quarterly ad hoc poker game, played at various venues around New York City.
So the Fraser Society is alive and well, and its members are recognized under said moniker as one of the leading donor groups in our recent success in renovating the Fraser '03 room. (There’s a reward offered for the return of our beloved wooden Chief George and a fatwa has been issued against whoever stole the juke.)
The Wednesday Night Club
None of its members can clearly recall what occasion or motive gave rise to the founding of the Wednesday Night Club, but the occasion was not grand, nor were the motives high-minded. So founded it was one Wednesday evening in the Fall of the 1978-1979 academic year. Perhaps the access of several club officers to the stash of beer kegs had something to do with it. The inability of other nearby eating clubs to securely store their own kegs was another factor contributing to this club’s springing to life.
The WNC’s mission was beautiful in its simplicity: Repair to the George C. Fraser Room after each Wednesday dinner; tap a keg; crank up the jukebox, and commit to remain there until the first to occur of dawn or the draining of said keg.
With rarely more than 15 members in attendance, this was no small feat. The occasional presence of women, allegedly from a nearby nursing college, provided some welcome support for the beverage consumption to follow.
Among the least enjoyable experiences of membership in the Wednesday Night Club was waking up on one of Cottage’s too-many vinyl upholstered couches in the inevitable pool of one’s own drool. And yet, there were high points too – although none are now clearly recalled. Except, of course, for the friendships that were forged on those cold nights of long ago before Cottage was enlightened enough to admit women members. Those friendships endure to this day, and that made it very easy for the members of the Wednesday Night Club to be among the leading donors to the renovation of their beloved George C. Fraser Room.
The Merton Society
Founded by a group of Cottage Club members who wanted to promote humorous after-dinner speaking in a relaxed atmosphere. The preferred venue for this promotion was the Cottage Club Library, which was designed after the library at Merton College in Oxford; hence the group chose to call itself the "Merton Society." The Society’s motto is "Sapor Cum Facetia Omnia Vincit," which means "Good Taste with Humour Conquers All."
Like Cottage Club, the Merton Society incorporated the colors of the British 17th Lancers Regiment into its insignia, and it added a Maltese cross in order to honor those members of the Regiment who were awarded the Victoria Cross by Great Britain.
Each meeting of the Society is typically preceded by a gourmet dinner, and the meetings themselves are conducted in a manner modeled after the great Oxford and Cambridge Speaking Societies, with emphasis given to obscure topics that promote clever debate and discourse.
One tradition that continues at meetings is that of serving all beverages in teacups, although no one can really remember why this is the case. In more recent years, undergraduate members of the Merton Society have followed the tradition of the "Seven Wise Men of Grease" (the founders of the University Cottage Club) and have provided each member of the Society with a title modeled after the British peerage system. They often are based upon some unique or humorous aspect of the recipient’s expertise, speaking topics and/or style. In this era of rampant scandal and discord, the Merton Society is proud to continue its tradition of promoting good taste and humor above all.